Head wraps have now become a fashion staple and a must-have accessory for countless women not only in Trinidad and Tobago but all over the world. Many cultures use head wraps to signify their heritage and communicate a certain belief system while others use head wraps to make bold fashion statements.
With Emancipation Day holiday today (which observes the day enslaved Africans throughout the British Empire in the Caribbean were finally freed from the bondage of chattel slavery), many women have chosen to portray their African-ness with beautiful and fashionable African head wraps. The bold fashion statement is catching on and even celebrities are accessorising with elegant head wraps. According to Nafesatu Sohna from Gambia who now resides in the Bronx, New York, head wraps can be worn for any occasion, with any attire—a jumpsuit, tee-shirts, and jeans or with any high-fashion clothing.
Sohna noted that African head wraps is an old cultural tradition that is found in many parts of Africa and have gained prominence around the world through cultural and religious traditions. She noted that black women in particular adorn themselves with head wraps as a form of pride in their African heritage, and have learned to embrace fabrics, styles and colours that enhance their beauty.
Sohna, 21, who attends Long Island University in Brooklyn, noted that head wraps are known by different names. Sohna explained that a head wrap represents far more than a piece of fabric and serves various functions. The distinct head covering is also known as turban, gele (in Nigeria) head rag, headtie, head handkerchief, or head wrap. Sohna is skilled at wrapping her head wraps which usually towers atop her clients heads. Her head wraps are featured in various photo shoots and her signature wrapping style can make any woman look regal and sophisticated.
She noted that African head wraps are fashionable, spiritual and cultural depending on the person’s choice for wearing it. When it comes to head wraps there is no right or wrong way, Sohna started making bold fashion statements while practising to wrap her own head. People soon began recognising her talent and skills which continue to be in high demand for photo shoots or clients who want that regal look. “I just love the feeling of having a head wrap on. I feel like it just makes me closer to my roots. It makes me feel empowering; I feel divine. As women we should all feel empowering. Since I just started doing the head wraps in January people are asking me to do a lot of photo shoots. They’re becoming pretty popular and it takes ten to 15 minutes to do. They can be worn with any outfit not just African outfits. Everyone wears head wraps nowadays there is no stigma attached to it; I think that these days it’s a fashionable trend.
We are queens with our without a head wrap but wearing a head wrap symbolises strength, beauty, unity, respect and empowerment. It boosts your confidence. You can wear a head wrap on a dinner date, to the movies or even reserve it for more formal events. I’m always stopped and asked where I got the wrap from. People ask me a lot of questions about it; they mostly ask me who did it; most times I get stopped in the streets just for a compliment. It’s not a complex skill, it’s easy to do and anyone can wear a head wrap, Sohna said.
Sohna said she has many Trinidadian friends. She is proud that model Kohcoa Kibibijaweta is not only her client but also her personal friend. I love Caribbean people because they remind me of African people a lot. I have a lot of Trini friends, Kohcoa is one of them,” Sohna said.
African head wraps up
do’s & don’ts
If you are wearing a head wrap to hide or heal hair loss or to simply rest your hair from dreadlocks or braids, or are in between styles, or you are just having a horrendous hair day, you still need to follow some healthy hair and scalp do’s and don’ts:
• Don’t twist the wrap so tightly that any longer hair gets twisted, pulled, and damaged because you can exacerbate your condition and put more stress on hair follicles instead of resting them.
• Don’t wrap hair when it is wet because you’ll be trapping moisture in, which can lead to fungus and bacteria growth and infections, especially if your hair loss condition involves any type of scalp infection.
• Do let hair out at night so scalp can breathe. If you want to keep hair or extensions from getting tangled, try a very loose, thick, large braid to gently hold hair in place.
• Do use a head wrap to protect hair from sun-overexposure if you have follicles and scars healing from Traction Alopecia, CCCA, or any transplant surgeries, because sun exposure can cause scarring, as well as the pain and peeling of a sunburn on the already-sensitive scalp areas.
• Do practice with many different scarf fabrics, shapes, and techniques to find the one that suits your hair or hair loss needs perfectly—not every style is right for everybody, and there are so many different ways of tying a scarf or head wrap that are easy to learn, with a little practice.
• Do attend traditional African heritage festivals and expos and search out traditional purveyors of traditional African fabrics and hair stylists. These women can teach you head wrap techniques in a snap.
• Do check out YouTube and search “head wraps” and “scarf tying” to find step-by-step videos that teach some tying techniques in person, which can be easier to learn for some.
• Do check out some Web sites that show some beautiful examples and more step-by-step directions for tying a scarf or a head wrap in many ornate and beautiful ways: www.texeresilk.com, www.headcovers.com.
• Do check out other types of head wraps if you just don’t want to tie it yourself — some come pre-tied or with hair as well, on www.chaopelo.com.